Monday, May 14, 2007

Parents of slain youth call for more youth mentoring opportunities

In the May 14 Chicago Sun Times, the page 3 story headline is "They're just children. You wonder where it comes from. What causes a child to wantonly and blatantly hatch such an ill-conceived plan? What are the influences?"

In the article the parents of the young man who was killed last week are "vowing to work to answer these questions, by pushing for more youth-mentoring opportunities, better gun laws, and other initiatives aimed at curbing youth violence?"

That's what the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been trying to do for the past 14 years. Search for "tutor mentor" on and you'll find numerous places where we're reaching out to build business, hospital and leadership support for the various volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs in Chicago. Look at the maps we've created that show where poverty and poorly performing schools are located, or where youth violence has led to feature articles like today's paper.

At this point the biggest obstacle to a youth participating in a well organized tutor/mentor program is that lack of such programs in most areas, and the lack of a consistent flow of operating dollars to support the growth of good programs.

If you're angry about this shooting and want to help Blair Holt's parents find these answers, you can spend an hour a week reading about the problem, and learning about what types of volunteer based programs might help kids make better choices with their lives. Visit the Links section on the T/MC site and get familiar with the various categories of information that you and your friends and co-workers can use as resources.

Or, come to the Tutor/Mentor Conference this Thursday and Friday and meet some of the people leading these programs. Start your learning there and keep learning on a daily, weekly and yearly basis.

There is no quick fix to this problem. It takes several years of consistent work for a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program to build the trust and participation of a core group of youth, families and volunteers. Few programs can do this if they don't have funds for space, or consistent staff, or for learning from others so they can innovate ways to make these programs work.

If public and private sector donors don't step up to provide the funds, there won't be much change in the availability, or quality, of mentoring for youth.

Which means we'll be reading this story again and again. Only the names and places will change.

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